The Nine Worst Things to Do at the Car Dealership
How you handle yourself at the car dealership can make a difference in the price you get when buying a car. Here are nine things you DON’T want to do at the car lot.
1. Go in confrontational: Like other professionals, car salespeople want to make a profit, but they also want to make their customers happy and build relationships. Go into the dealership with the desire to get to know the salesman and build mutual trust and you will be much more likely to enjoy the car buying process and get a better deal.
2. Walk in with no idea what you want: When you don’t know what you want, you’re more likely to buy the first fun car you see or spend a lot of your time jumping around from vehicle to vehicle. This is human nature. Bypass this common mistake by taking a moment to figure out what you need for your lifestyle, your work, and local road conditions.
3. Head to the lot before you’ve done your research: Research the car you want online—there are a number of great sites for researching vehicle types, models, and values, including manufacturer web sites, NADA, Edmunds, and Kelly Blue Book—and start the negotiations just below book value if it’s a used car. Going in prepared will save both you and the salesman time and money and will lead to a better relationship.
4. Don’t take a test drive: How are you going to know if you like the car if you don’t take it for a drive? The test drive is when you find out what kind of power the car has, how comfortable the seats are, whether the sound system is up to your standards, and many other things you’d never know without taking a moment to drive her around the block.
5. Don’t negotiate: The salesman expects you to negotiate. If you go with the sticker price, you’re paying more than you need to. As noted in #3 above, do your research and go to the lot with a price in mind so that you can negotiate your way to a payment that fits your budget.
6. Don’t get pre-approved for a car loan: When you get pre-approved before you head to the car lot, you know how much you can afford and can head into negotiations with confidence. Pre-approval can get you a better financing deal as well, particularly if you are buying a used car. If you’re buying a new car, however, you may want to look at the special financing or incentives the manufacturer has to offer. Keep your options open; if there are no incentives, ask your dealer if there are any more competitive rates that they can get you. If not, use your great rate from your financial institution. Also, with interest rates being so low and relatively competitive, remember you are purchasing a vehicle, not an interest rate. Focus on value for dollar and what fits in your budget.
7. Start talking about your trade-in immediately: Come to a final price and then use the trade-in to reduce the price. Think of it as a “down payment” on the vehicle to help you get to the monthly payment you need and not as a part of the new vehicle. Don’t bring the trade into the picture until you are ready to.
8. Shop for vehicles out of state: You may pay less for a vehicle in another state, but documentation fees can be much higher, which could result in a higher overall cost. In addition, because you (most likely) won’t be able to service the car at the dealership, you’ll have to work with a more local dealership, where you won’t have a relationship and where you won’t get priority service.
9. Don’t think about insurance or add-ons: The price of the car is one part of the picture. The other parts are insurance and add-ons. Ask for information about what their insurance and add-ons provide and include them in your pricing/payments so that you can see the full picture before you agree to a price.
If you can avoid making these nine common mistakes at the dealership, you’ll be more likely to get a good deal on your next car. Remember that negotiating is easier when you know what you want and how much you’re willing to spend. Do your research, walk into the dealership with confidence, and get ready to build a relationship that could result in additional good deals in the future!
Don't buy your next car without reading our Car Buying 101 guide to car shopping.
About Joshua Dobrovich
Joshua is the consumer lending team lead at VSECU. He supports the consumer lending team in all areas of the lending process and helps members obtain credit and financing to achieve their personal goals. Joshua has an extensive background in automotive. He has been the service manager and, most recently, business manager at The Automaster Honda in Shelburne VT. Joshua and his partner Jennie have two awesome daughters Kyla and Rylin and live in central Vermont.